How To Choose The Right Dog Trainer

An Australian Shepherd gets clicker training. (Photo by Ellen Levy Finch)

Much like humans, dogs are taught how to perform basic activities. Sit, stay, giving paw, and even knowing how to walk on a leash are all teachable behaviors. To successfully teach a dog new tricks, many people turn to trainers for guidance.  

Choosing the right trainer for your dog is very important. Depending on a dog’s temperament, breed, and history, dogs will respond differently to different training methods. If you’re considering hiring a professional trainer to help train your dog, here are a few tips that will help you find the right trainer for both you and your furry companion.

“First and foremost, pet owners must understand that there are no government regulations regarding animal trainers,” says Raychel Ryckman Martino, an animal shelter volunteer for four years who founded the Facebook group Everything Dog NY. “Take a trip to a local dog park and people are handing out business cards without having proper credentials. Anyone can claim to be a trainer, so do your homework before hiring someone.” 

Just as important is to inquire about the type of training being offered. There are typically two types of training: old-school, aka balanced training, is a balance of punishment and reinforcement; trainers may use shock and prong collars to teach dogs right vs. wrong. New-age refers to modern science-based behavior training. 

“Thanks to science, the idea of teaching dominance has been debunked and once relied upon alpha theories are now thought to be emotionally detrimental to dogs,” notes Martino. “New-age training rewards dogs for good behavior which makes them want to repeat that behavior. Teaching a dog how to make the right choice provides a positive experience for both the dog and owner.”

Once you’ve figured out the best way to proceed with your pup, remember that any training takes time and patience. 

“New and even experienced pet owners often expect their dog to react to training right away, and a quick fix is never the right answer,” she adds. “This mentality causes unnecessary pet surrenders and unwanted behaviors which brings about a tremendous amount of stress for all involved, so please offer lots of love and understanding during this learning period.”

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